The Benefits And Shortcomings Of Blind Hiring In The Recruitment Process

Content Credit: Forbes

 

Most companies are well aware of the importance of employing a diverse workforce. Diversity in areas such as employee background, race, gender, age and religion sends a message of inclusivity both inside and outside the company, creating a competitive advantage in a diverse world. However, the acceptance of diversity of thought and unique approaches and ideas is what truly boosts an organization’s efficiency and effectiveness.

Many employers struggle with how to set aside the biases that are inherent to the hiring process and hire employees who will be an asset to their organization while contributing to a diverse workforce. One solution that some employers are exploring is the practice of blind hiring — i.e., finding ways to mask job seekers’ ethnicity, gender, age and educational background during the application review stage. In an effort to help eliminate discrimination and boost diversity, blind hiring has been embraced by such companies as Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Victoria Police and Westpac Bank. Just as the television singing competition The Voice demonstrated in rebuttal to the stringent age limits and biases established by its predecessor American Idol, one can’t discriminate based on criteria that one doesn’t know.

The History Of Blind Hiring

Blind auditions are nothing new to the music industry. According to The New York Times, the Boston Symphony Orchestra first introduced the practice in 1952. While most orchestras at the time employed nearly all white men, blind auditions targeted diversification by removing focus from everything but the performance. Following a racial discrimination case against the New York Philharmonic in 1969, by the 1970s, many orchestras employed blind auditions. A follow-up study by researchers at Harvard and Princeton found that blind auditions increased the chances of women being hired by 25–46%.

Decades later, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Kedar Iyer created a software company called GapJumpers based on the same principle. Recognizing the number of talented coders whose job applications were overlooked by hiring managers for not having attended prestigious colleges, Iyer designed a software that hides candidates’ names, faces and personal information from employers during the initial hiring stages in order to reduce bias. GapJumpers has since been used more than 1,400 times and company numbers suggest that compared to standard resume screening, its use increases the chances of minority and female applicants being offered a first-round job interview by around 40%.

An Imperfect Science

Despite these statistics, the practice of blind hiring is not without its flaws. One example is that when used in a typical hiring context, a candidate’s personal information can only be hidden during the initial screening stage. Once an employer conducts face-to-face interviews, there’s no way to mask a candidate’s name, gender or ethnicity. While applying a blind hiring principle to resume screening may yield a more diverse pool of first-round interviewees, employers will subsequently be faced with the same hiring diversity challenges — such as graduates of top college programs being disproportionately white and Asian-American, or the majority of applicants to technology and engineering roles being male.

 

Another issue working against blind hiring is the natural tendency of employers’ desire to hire for culture fit rather than culture add. Whether candidates’ personal information is initially hidden or not, hiring managers seek to hire employees who share the company’s philosophy and who will work well with their fellow coworkers. In their quest to find candidates who share similar attitudes, beliefs and experiences, this often leads to hiring those who look the same, act the same, think the same and come from similar backgrounds. The result is a homogeneous culture that subconsciously discourages diversity. In order to change this, employers should make a conscious decision to seek those who bring something different and unique to the company culture. Whether it be different backgrounds, unique ideas or diverse experiences, only those employers who are willing to stretch the boundaries of their culture by hiring those who add something it doesn’t currently possess will experience true diversity.

A final argument against blind hiring is the fact that it may not be nearly as effective as originally thought. A recent study conducted by the Behavioral Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA) reported on an initiative by Australian Public Service to increase the number of women hired for senior roles by removing gender information from candidates’ applications. Surprisingly, the trial revealed the opposite of expected results. When a male name was added to a candidate’s application, the candidate was found to be 3.2% less likely to receive a job offer. Conversely, when adding a female name to an application, the candidate was 2.9% more likely to receive an offer.

Needless to say, the results of the initiative have cast serious doubt about the effectiveness of blind hiring. While those who oversaw the study anticipated a more positive impact on diversity, the results showed that de-identifying candidates during the initial screening process yielded the opposite of its intended effect. For this reason, employers should exercise caution when using blind hiring to improve diversity.

As employers seek to build their workforce while drawing from a diverse candidate pool, they should be mindful as to whether or not blind hiring will truly yield their desired results. While it may work for a reality show singing competition, the modern workplace involves more than one audition, requires more than just vocal talent and runs the risk of hiring based on current work culture preferences. Those who can set biases aside while hiring based on qualifications and experience, as well as some element of uniqueness or diversity the candidate brings to the workplace, will achieve or exceed the benefits of blind hiring.

Content Credit: Forbes